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Updated: 5 days 23 hours ago

Ukraine's Zelenskyy Visits Recently Retaken, Devastated City

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 14:29

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After Russian forces withdrew from Bucha, on the outskirts of the capital of Kyiv, in the early weeks of the war, the bodies of civilians were found dumped in the streets, yards and mass graves. Many bore signs of torture. Moscow's recent rout in the northeast was its largest military defeat since that withdrawal from the Kyiv area.

Prosecutors said they have found six bodies with traces of torture in recently retaken villages in the Kharkiv region.

"We have a terrible picture of what the occupiers did. ... Such cities as Balakliia, Izium are standing in the same row as Bucha, Borodyanka, Irpin," said Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, listing the names of places where the Ukrainians have alleged Russian forces committed atrocities.

Local authorities have made similar claims in other places formerly held by Russia, but it was not immediately possible to verify their information. They have so far not provided evidence of atrocities on the scale that was seen in Bucha.

The head of the Kharkiv prosecutor's office, Oleksandr Filchakov, said bodies were found in Hrakove and Zaliznyche, villages around 35 miles southeast of Kharkiv.

He said investigators were also learning of residents being killed and buried by Russian troops in another retaken town, Balakliia.

On the northern outskirts of Izium, the remains of Russian tanks and vehicles lay shattered along the road.

Zelenskyy said that as Ukrainian soldiers retook villages, "the life comes back."

In the wake of the recent gains, a new front line has started to emerge along the Oskil River that largely traces the eastern edge of the Kharkiv region, a Washington-based think tank said Wednesday.

"Russian troops are unlikely to be strong enough to prevent further Ukrainian advances along the entire Oskil River because they do not appear to be receiving reinforcements, and Ukrainian troops will likely be able to exploit this weakness to resume the counteroffensive across the Oskil if they choose," the Institute for the Study of War said.

The counteroffensive has also left more weapons in Ukrainian hands.

Russian forces likely left behind dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers and other heavy weaponry as they fled Ukraine's advance in the east of the country, a Ukrainian think tank said Wednesday.

The Center for Defense Strategies said one single Russian unit that was around Izium left behind more than three dozen T-80 tanks and about as many infantry fighting vehicles known by the acronym BMP. Another unit left behind 47 tanks and 27 armored vehicles.

The center said Russian forces tried to destroy some of the abandoned vehicles through artillery strikes as they fell back. Typically, armed forces destroy equipment left behind so their opponent can't use it.

However, the chaos of the Russian withdrawal apparently saw them leave untouched ammunition and weapons behind.

In other areas, Russia continued its attacks, causing the death toll to keep rising in a war that has dragged on for nearly seven months.

SEE MORE: Ukraine's Fighters Share What They've Seen In Newly Retaken Territory

His hand on his heart, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched as his country's flag was hoisted Wednesday above the recently recaptured city of Izium, a rare foray outside the capital that highlighted Moscow's embarrassing retreat in the face of a lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Russian forces left the war-scarred city last week as Kyiv's soldiers pressed a stunning advance that has reclaimed large swaths of territory in the country's northeastern Kharkiv region.

As Zelenskyy looked on and sang the national anthem, the Ukrainian flag was raised in front of the burned-out city hall building in the largely devastated town, where apartment buildings are blackened by fire and pockmarked by artillery strikes. The center of one residential building had collapsed, a gaping hole and piles of rubble where homes used to be.

"The view is very shocking but it is not shocking for me," Zelenskyy said in brief comments to the press, "because we began to see the same pictures from Bucha, from the first de-occupied territories … the same destroyed buildings, killed people."

SEE MORE: U.S. Intelligence Is Helping Ukraine's Counteroffensive

Russian shelling of seven Ukrainian regions over the past 24 hours killed at least seven civilians and wounded 22 more, Ukraine's presidential office reported on Wednesday morning.

Two people were killed and three wounded after Russia attacked Mykolaiv with S-300 missiles overnight, said regional Gov. Vitaliy Kim. Settlements near the front line in the Mykolaiv region remain under constant fire.

The Nikopol area, which is across a river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, was shelled three times during the night, but no injuries were immediately reported, said regional Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko. Nikopol city itself was shelled two times and left almost 3,000 families without electricity. Reznichenko said the electricity has been partially restored.

In the Luhansk region, where some of the Russian troops went after retreating from the Kharkiv region, mobile internet has been shut down, according to the region's governor Serhiy Haidai, and intense shelling of Ukrainian forces continues.

The fighting continued in the neighboring Donetsk region, where shelling killed five civilians and wounded 16 more. Together, Luhansk and Donetsk make up the Donbas.

"Every night in Donbas is restless. The civilians should leave the region. It's a matter of life and death," Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Crowds Flock To London To See Queen's Coffin Procession

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 14:06

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Queen Elizabeth II's coffin will leave Buckingham Palace for the last time Wednesday as it is taken amid somber pageantry on a horse-drawn gun carriage past crowds of mourners to the Houses of Parliament, where the late monarch will lie in state for four days.

Crowds began massing early along the flag-lined road outside the palace for the procession from the monarch's official London residence to the historic Westminster Hall at Parliament. King Charles III and other members of the royal family will walk behind the coffin.

Thousands of people are gathering on The Mall outside Buckingham Palace and along the banks of the River Thames hours before the coffin procession begins. People in the crowd cheered when Charles waved to them as he drove from his residence, Clarence House, to the palace.

Joan Bucklehurst, a 50-year-old retail worker from Cheshire in northwestern England, said the queen "meant so much for everybody."

"She was amazing, yeah," she added, choking up with emotion. "So, we had to be here. We've been here a few times when there have been special occasions, but this one, I couldn't miss this."

The crowds are the latest manifestation of a nationwide outpouring of grief and respect for the only monarch most Britons have ever known, who died at her beloved Balmoral summer retreat on Thursday at age 96, ending a 70-year reign.

SEE MORE: Queen Elizabeth II's Lasting Legacy On Britain And The World

"It's a very sad day, but it's our last opportunity to do our duty for the queen and it's our first opportunity to do it for the king, and that makes us all very proud," said Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, of the Household division, who is responsible for organizing the ceremonial aspects of the queen's funeral.

London's Heathrow Airport said it was adjusting timetables to prevent overhead planes disturbing the procession. British Airways canceled 16 flights as a result of the changes.

The airport said in a statement that the changes would "ensure silence over central London as the ceremonial procession moves from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall."

Troops involved in the procession have been preparing since the queen died. So have the horses of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

Sgt. Tom Jenks, from the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, said that the horses have undergone special training, including how to handle weeping mourners, as well as flowers and flags being thrown onto streets as the procession passes by.

People stood behind metal barriers or sat on folding chairs, umbrellas at the ready, takeout coffees in hand under gray skies hours before the coffin was scheduled to leave the landmark palace at 2:22 p.m.

Crowds have lined the route of the queen's coffin whenever it has been moved in its long journey from Scotland back to London.

On Tuesday night, thousands braved a typical London drizzle as the state hearse, with interior lights illuminating the sovereign's flag-draped casket, drove slowly from a military air base into the heart of London.

Geoff Colgan, a taxi driver who took the day off to witness the moment, stood stunned in the moments after the queen's coffin passed.

"It's one of those things you know would happen, but when it does you can't believe it," he said, holding his toddler.

Earlier, in Edinburgh, some 33,000 people filed in silent respect past her coffin as it lay for 24 hours at St. Giles' Cathedral.

SEE MORE: King Charles III In Belfast, Queen's Coffin To Return To London

Hundreds of thousands are expected to do the same in London when the queen lies in state at the 900-year-old Westminster Hall, the oldest building in Parliament, for four days before her state funeral on Monday.

The hall is where Guy Fawkes and Charles I were tried, where kings and queens hosted magnificent medieval banquets, and where ceremonial addresses were presented to Queen Elizabeth II during her silver, golden and diamond jubilees.

Chris Bond, from Truro in southwest England, was among those lining up along the banks of the River Thames. He also attended the lying in state of the queen's mother in 2002.

"Obviously, it's quite difficult queuing all day long, but when you walk through those doors into Westminster Hall, that marvelous, historic building, there was a great sense of hush and one was told you take as much time as you like, and it's just amazing," he said.

"We know the queen was a good age and she served the country a long time, but we hoped this day would never come," he added.

Chris Imafidon, secured the sixth place in the queue.

"I have a thousand and one emotions when I see her," he said. "I want to say, God, she was an angel, because she touched many good people and did so many good things."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Phoenix Suns Owner Fined $10M For Racist, Misogynistic Conduct

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 12:58

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The NBA has suspended Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner Robert Sarver for one year, plus fined him $10 million, after an investigation found that he had engaged in what the league called “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies."

The findings of the league's report, published Tuesday, came nearly a year after the NBA asked a law firm to investigate allegations that Sarver had a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents over his nearly two-decade tenure overseeing the franchise.

Sarver said he will “accept the consequences of the league’s decision” and apologized for “words and actions that offended our employees," though noted he disagreed with some of the report's findings.

The report said Sarver “repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns," though added that the investigation “makes no finding that Sarver used this racially insensitive language with the intent to demean or denigrate."

pic.twitter.com/zqoTLQV9GI

— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) September 13, 2022

The study also concluded that Sarver used demeaning language toward female employees, including telling a pregnant employee that she would not be able to do her job after becoming a mother; made off-color comments and jokes about sex and anatomy; and yelled and cursed at employees in ways that would be considered bullying “under workplace standards.”

The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed by NBA rule.

“I take full responsibility for what I have done," Sarver said. “I am sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values. ... This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate a capacity to learn and grow as we continue to build a working culture where every employee feels comfortable and valued."

Sarver, the league said, cannot be present at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility; attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including games, practices or business partner activity; represent the Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity; or have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of the Suns or Mercury.

The league said it would donate the $10 million “to organizations that are committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace.”

“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We believe the outcome is the right one, taking into account all the facts, circumstances and context brought to light by the comprehensive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to upholding proper standards in NBA workplaces.”

It’s the second-largest penalty — in terms of total sanctions — ever levied by the NBA against a team owner, behind Donald Sterling being banned for life by Silver in 2014. Sterling was fined $2.5 million, the largest allowable figure at that time, and was forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the massive fallout that followed him making racist comments in a recorded conversation.

The allegations against Sarver were reported by ESPN last year, which said it talked to dozens of current and former team employees for its story, including some who detailed inappropriate behavior. He originally denied or disputed most of the allegations through his legal team.

On Tuesday, Sarver's representatives said the investigation's findings “confirmed that there was no evidence, whatsoever, to support several of the accusations in ESPN’s reporting from November 2021."

“While it is difficult to identify with precision what motivated Sarver’s workplace behavior described in this report, certain patterns emerged from witness accounts: Sarver often acted aggressively in an apparent effort to provoke a reaction from his targets; Sarver’s sense of humor was sophomoric and inappropriate for the workplace; and Sarver behaved as though workplace norms and policies did not apply to him,” read the report from the New York-based investigating firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Sarver will have to complete a training program “focused on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace” during his suspension, the league said.

Among the league’s findings:

— That Sarver engaged in “crude, sexual and vulgar commentary and conduct in the workplace,” including references to sexual acts, condoms and the anatomy, referring to both his own and those of others.

— The investigation also found that Sarver sent a small number of male Suns employees “joking pornographic material and crude emails, including emails containing photos of a nude woman and a video of two people having sex.”

— Sarver, the investigation found, also exposed himself unnecessarily to a male Suns employee during a fitness check, caused another male employee to become uncomfortable by grabbing him and dancing “pelvis to pelvis” at a holiday party, and standing nude in front of a male employee following a shower.

— He also made comments about female employees, the investigation found, including the attractiveness of Suns dancers, and asked a female Suns employee if she had undergone breast augmentation.

The league also will require the Suns and Mercury to engage in a series of workplace improvements, including retaining outside firms that will “focus on fostering a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace.”

Employees of those organizations will be surveyed, anonymously and regularly, to ensure that proper workplace culture is in place. The NBA and WNBA will need to be told immediately of any instances, or even allegations, of significant misconduct by any employees.

All those conditions will be in place for three years.

The league said the results of the investigation were based on interviews with 320 individuals, including current and former employees who worked for the teams during Sarver's 18 years with the Suns, and from the evaluation of more than 80,000 documents and other materials, including emails, text messages and videos.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Don Bolduc Declares Victory In GOP New Hampshire Senate Primary

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 12:09

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The Republican stage for retaking the Senate majority this coming November is finally set, as retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc declared himself the winner Tuesday night.

Chuck Morse, the Senate president in New Hampshire, who was viewed as the mainstream, more moderate Republican choice, announced that he was conceding in a tweet saying "It's been a long night and we've come up short. I want to thank my supporters for all the blood sweat and tears they poured into this team effort. I just called and wished all the best to General Don Bolduc."

Bolduc's focus this fall now needs to be on defeating Maggie Hassan; Bolduc is the candidate Democrats preferred, as they immediately wasted no time in blasting him as someone who is far-right with his positions.

SEE MORE: Voter Priorities Heading Into Midterm Elections

Democratic voters in New Hampshire appear to be galvanizing over the Supreme Court's move overturning nationwide access to abortion.

"I think that women across our whole country are energized because of the overturning of Roe, which we thought they would never see, so I think people realize what they can do is vote," said Heather Krans, a New Hampshire voter.

"We've got to get the women back their rights. I mean, this is ridiculous," said George Drinkwater of Newfields, New Hampshire.

But Democrats aren't the only party saying they are motivated to vote in November.

"The people in New Hampshire are tired of what's happening with this administration and it's time to hold this administration accountable," said Kevin Ray, who voted in the GOP Primary.

Bolduc says he's the best option to recall Hassan from Washington.

SEE MORE: Abortion Driving More Women To Vote In Midterm Elections

"I will be able to go to Washington, D.C., be beholden to nobody but Granite Staters. That's what they want. That's the difference they're looking for," said Bolduc.

Bolduc tried to paint Hassan as out of touch with voters.

"Their No. 1 issues are inflation, energy, and safety and security. All those things that Maggie Hassan has failed at, for Granite Staters and Americans," Bolduc said.

But with control of the Senate hanging in the balance, President Joe Biden's Granite State favorability ratings hit just 22% in the latest poll, meaning Hassan may have to rely on voters looking past the president.

"The issues on the ballot are really going to drive the people out — abortion, Supreme Court, stuff like that — not that Biden's going keep them away," said Guy Cayton of Exeter, New Hampshire.

But Tuesday morning, before Don Bolduc was declared the winner of the Republican primary, the first-term Democratic senator told Newsy she expects to fight for survival.

"This will be a close race because it always is in New Hampshire. Everybody takes their responsibility very, very seriously here as voters. And I'm looking forward to making my case about my bipartisan record of results. And I will draw a sharp contrast with my opponent," Hassan said.

Judge Unseals Additional Portions Of Mar-A-Lago Affidavit

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 11:12

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A federal judge Tuesday unsealed additional portions of an FBI affidavit laying out the basis for a search of former President Donald Trump's Florida home, showing that agents earlier obtained a hard drive after issuing a subpoena for surveillance footage recorded inside Mar-a-Lago.

A heavily redacted version of the affidavit was made public last month, but the Justice Department requested permission to show more of it after lawyers for Trump revealed the existence of a June grand jury subpoena that sought video footage from cameras in the vicinity of the Mar-a-Lago storage room.

"Because those aspects of the grand jury's investigation have now been publicly revealed, there is no longer any reason to keep them sealed (i.e. redacted) in the filings in this matter," department lawyers wrote.

The newly visible portions of the FBI agent's affidavit show that the FBI on June 24 subpoenaed for the footage after a visit weeks earlier to Mar-a-Lago in which agents observed 50 to 55 boxes of records in the storage room at the property. The Trump Organization provided a hard drive on July 6 in response to the subpoena, the affidavit says.

SEE MORE: Justice Department OK With 1 Trump Pick For Mar-A-Lago Arbiter

The footage could be an important piece of the investigation, including as agents evaluate whether anyone has sought to obstruct the probe. The Justice Department has said in a separate filing that it has "developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government's investigation."

The Justice Department has been investigating the holding of top-secret information and other classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House. FBI agents during their Aug. 8 search of the home and club said they recovered more than 11,000 documents and 1,800 other items, including roughly 100 with classification markings.

Separately Tuesday, the Justice Department again urged U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to lift her hold on core aspects of the investigation. Cannon last week granted the Trump team's request for an independent arbiter to review the seized documents and weed out from the investigation any records that may be covered by claims of executive or attorney-client privilege.

SEE MORE: What's Left As Jan. 6 Panel Sprints To Year-End Finish

She also ordered the department to halt its review of the records pending any further court order or the completion of a review by the yet-to-be-named special master. The department urged Cannon last week to put her order on hold and told the judge Tuesday that its investigation would be harmed by a continued delay of its ability to scrutinize the classified documents.

"The government and the public unquestionably have an interest in the timely enforcement of criminal laws, particularly those involving the protection of highly sensitive information, and especially where, as here, there may have been efforts to obstruct its investigation," the lawyers wrote.

The Trump team on Monday urged the judge to leave her order in place. His lawyers raised questions about the documents' current classification status and noted that a president has absolute authority to declassify information, though they pointedly did not say that Trump had actually declassified anything.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

LGBTQ+ Individuals Face Heightened Safety Risks In Prison

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 01:30

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Dee Farmer served time at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, for credit card fraud. She was housed in a male facility even though she identified as a trans woman. Based on prison policy, she was placed with her gender assigned at birth. Within two weeks of her arrival, she says she was beaten and raped by her cellmate. 

"I stayed in prison for 17 years. And while there, you know, I suffered all the types of abuses," she said. "When I was raped, the guard was sitting down in his office and there were maybe 200 inmates in the unit I was in, in Terre Haute. There's only one guard, generally, to every housing unit. So, to believe that the officers can protect you is just a myth."

A lawsuit by Farmer against the prison system reached the Supreme Court. 

The justices ruled in her favor, saying that prison officials may be liable for harm if they know of safety risks and disregard them. That case was in 1994. 

SEE MORE: Where Are Anti-Trans Bills On The Rise?

Today, LGBTQ+ inmates still face bias, discrimination and unsafe circumstances in prison. 

Jane Hereth is an assistant professor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee whose recent report documented the overrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people in the criminal justice system and the pipeline that funnels many of them there.

"Bias and discrimination across the board by police, by judges, by attorneys," she said. "Things like family rejection, poverty, homelessness, bullying in schools — were all part of their story leading to the criminal legal system."

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, LGBTQ+ individuals were twice as likely to be arrested compared to their straight counterparts.   

"When we talk about incarceration, probation, the justice system in general, there's a high representation of LGBTQ Black and brown folks," Black and Pink Social Worker and Deputy Director Andrew Aleman said.

Once behind bars, trans individuals are at a heightened risk, especially trans women of color. 

"We know that most trans women who are who are taken into custody are housed in a men's facility, despite knowing the risk and the high rates of sexual assault and violence that happen to trans women in men facilities," Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Richard Saenz said.

Shows like "Orange Is the New Black" introduced many in the public to life in prison for LGBTQ+ people. 

SEE MORE: Curbing People With Mental Health Away From Jail

"'Orange Is the New Black' and some other shows that have come out since then have really humanized people who are in custody," Saenz continued. "One of the things that I remember seeing is that a trans woman was approached, you know, maybe by four or five inmates at once, sort of like jokingly harassing her sexually. And so that is something that you generally see within the prison system on a daily basis."

Farmer says harassment takes a mental toll.  

"They suffer a number of times, many of them, even if they're not raped, they are constantly sexually harassed and pressured into sexual relationships," Farmer said. "And many of them have to do it for their safety."

Farmer says there's still a revolving door of LGBTQ+ people who go through solitary confinement for  protection but then return to the general prison population because confinement was depressing.  

"I was placed in the segregation unit and I was there for over a year. And while I was there, there were maybe eight or nine, not necessarily transgender, but gay and transgender — I would just say gender-nonconforming inmates — that were just back and forth into the segregation unit," Farmer said.

Organizations like Black and Pink are advocates for LGBTQ+ in the criminal justice systems. Their programs connect gay inmates to support networks outside prison.  

"My ask would be that we don't forget our roots, and we don't forget that there are thousands of LGBTQ people in prisons and jails right now. And these are our loved ones," Saenz said. 

Whistleblower Lays Out Twitter's Data Security Troubles

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 01:26

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Former head of Twitter security Peiter Zatko on Tuesday told Congress about the tech giant’s widespread issues with keeping foreign adversaries from working at the company and exploiting internal data. 

“Twitter would be a gold mine for people in the community who focus on foreign intelligence organizations and assets," Zatko said. "If you placed somebody in Twitter, as we know has happened, it would be very difficult to Twitter to find them. They would probably be able to stay there for a long period of time and gain a significant amount of information.”  

In his opening remarks, Sen. Chuck Grassley noted that Zatko’s disclosures helped uncover evidence that India was able to place at least two foreign assets on payroll at the company, and that China had at least one agent at Twitter as well. 

Zatko noted those agents could be embedded to figure out what information Twitter might censor, or to use internal software to find user phone numbers, current and former email addresses, and even where Twitter thinks a user lives.  

 

 

 

SEE MORE: Musk Subpoenas Twitter Whistleblower In Bid To Rescind Acquisition

“This is the information that you need to start taking over other people’s accounts […] Once I know your home address and your home phone number, I can approach you in real life. I can put pressure on you, I can possibly recruit you," Zatko said. "You could be a witting or unwitting accomplice. And then I could influence you or target you for influence operations in the real world. 

Zatko also said that former users may be at risk of having their data exposed, too. 

“I was told straight out by the chief privacy officer that the FTC had come and asked, 'does Twitter delete user information when they leave the platform?’”  

"Instead of answering whether we delete user data, we have intentionally replied, ‘we deactivate users,' and try to sidestep the program because we know we don’t delete user data, and cannot comply with that if they demand us to.” 

A Twitter spokesperson told Newsy that “Today’s hearing only confirms that Mr. Zatko’s allegations are riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.” The company also said its hiring process is independent of foreign influence and includes background checks. 

What's Left As Jan. 6 Panel Sprints To Year-End Finish

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 01:25

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With only three months left in the year, the House Jan. 6 committee is eyeing a close to its work and a final report laying out its findings about the U.S. Capitol insurrection. But, the investigation is not over.

The committee has already revealed much of its work at eight hearings over the summer, showing in detail how former President Donald Trump ignored many of his closest advisers and amplified his false claims of election fraud after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden. Witnesses interviewed by the panel — some of them Trump's closest allies — recounted in videotaped testimony how the former president declined to act when hundreds of his supporters violently attacked the Capitol as Congress certified President Biden's victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Lawmakers say there is more to come. The nine-member panel — seven Democrats and two Republicans — interviewed witnesses through all of August, and they are hoping to have at least one hearing by the end of the month. Members met Tuesday to discuss the panel's next steps.

Because the Jan. 6 panel is a temporary or "select" committee, it expires at the end of the current Congress. If Republicans take the majority in November's elections, as they are favored to do, they are expected to dissolve the committee in January. So the panel is planning to issue a final report by the end of December.

As for hearings, the panel's Democratic chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, said after the private members' meeting Tuesday in the Capitol that the committee's goal is to hold a hearing Sept. 28, but that members were still discussing whether it would happen at all.

"We'll we're still in the process of talking," Thompson said. "If it happens, it will be that date. We're not sure at this point."

SEE MORE: Trump Foe Liz Cheney Defeated In Wyoming GOP Primary

Members of the committee had promised more hearings in September as they wrapped up the series of summer hearings. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chairwoman, said the committee "has far more evidence to share with the American people and more to gather."

"Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued and the dam has begun to break," Cheney said at a July 21 hearing that was held in prime time and watched by 17.7 million people. "We have considerably more to do."

It's unclear if the hearing would provide a general overview of what the panel has learned or if they would be focused on new information and evidence. The committee conducted several interviews at the end of July and into August with Trump's Cabinet secretaries, some of whom had discussed invoking the constitutional process in the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office after the insurrection.

For its witnesses, the panel has already interviewed more than 1,000 people, but lawmakers and staff are still pursuing new threads. The committee recently spoke to several of the Cabinet secretaries, including former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in July and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in August.

The committee also wants to get to the bottom of missing Secret Service texts from Jan. 5 to 6, 2021, which could shed further light on Trump's actions during the insurrection, particularly after earlier testimony about his confrontation with security as he tried to join supporters at the Capitol. Thompson said Tuesday that the committee has recently obtained "thousands" of documents from the Secret Service.

SEE MORE: Ginni Thomas Emails Urged Electors To Overturn 2020 Election

The committee has also pursued an interview with conservative activist Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, who's married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Lawmakers want to know more about her role in trying to help Trump overturn the election. She contacted lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin as part of that effort.

Members of the committee are still debating how aggressively to pursue testimony from Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Some have questioned whether the committee needs to call Pence, who resisted Trump's pressure to try and block President Biden's certification on Jan. 6. Many of his closest aides have already testified, including Greg Jacob, his top lawyer at the White House who was with him during the insurrection as they hid from rioters who were threatening the vice president's life. Jacobs characterized much of Pence's thought process during the time when Trump was pressuring him.

The panel has been in discussions with Pence's lawyers for months, without any discernible progress. Still, the committee could invite Pence for closed-door testimony or ask him to answer written questions.

The calculation is different for the former president. Members have debated whether they should call Trump, who is the focus of their probe but also a witness who has fought against the investigation in court, denied much of the evidence and floated the idea of presidential pardons for Jan. 6 rioters. Trump is also facing scrutiny in several other investigations, including at the Justice Department and over the classified documents he took to his private club.

Another bit of unfinished business is the committee's subpoenas to five House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

In May the panel subpoenaed McCarthy and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama. The panel has investigated McCarthy's conversations with Trump the day of the attack and meetings the four other lawmakers had with the White House beforehand as Trump and some of his allies worked to overturn his election defeat.

The five Republicans, all of whom have repeatedly downplayed the investigation's legitimacy, have simply ignored the request to testify. But the Jan. 6 committee seems unlikely to meet their defiance with contempt charges, as they have with other witnesses, in the weeks before the November elections. Not only would it be a politically risky move, but it is unclear what eventual recourse the panel would have against its own colleagues.

SEE MORE: Newsy Timeline: A Messy Week For Donald Trump

In all, the committee must shut down within a month after issuing a final report, per its rules. But lawmakers could issue some smaller reports before then, perhaps even before the November elections. Thompson said earlier this summer that there may be an interim report in the fall.

The release of the final report will likely come close to the end of the year so the panel can maximize its time. While much of the findings will already be known, the report is expected to thread the story together in a definitive way that lays out the committee's conclusions for history.

The committee is expected to weigh in on possible legislative changes to the Electoral Count Act, which governs how a presidential election is certified by Congress.

A bipartisan group of senators released proposed changes over the summer that would clarify the way states submit electors and the vice president tallies the votes. Trump and his allies tried to find loopholes in that law ahead of Jan. 6 as the former president worked to overturn his defeat to President Biden and unsuccessfully pressured Pence to go along.

The Jan. 6 panel's final report is expected to include a larger swath of legislative recommendations.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Possible Railroad Worker Strike Could Upend U.S. Supply Chain

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 01:03

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As trains barrel across rail lines coast to coast, a labor dispute is barreling toward an end-of-week deadline that could derail the country's shipping industry and upend commerce in a multi-billion-dollar strike.

Rail lines and the country's two largest rail unions still can't agree on pay and time off, leaving some 60,000 workers ready to leave the job Friday unless they get a deal.

"The companies have very demanding schedules," said Andy Borchers, business professor at Lipscomb University. "There will be a variety of products that'll be affected, and we may not even know for sure exactly which ones those are until the breakdown happens."

At the White House Tuesday, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration is working on contingency plans to keep moving whatever goods they can, but still pushing aggressively to avoid a strike altogether.

"A shutdown is not acceptable," Jean-Pierre said. "That is not something that we want. It risks harming families, farming, harming businesses and whole communities. We have made that clear, empathetically and repeatedly to both parties."

SEE MORE: Inflation Reduction Act Pushes Financial Incentives, Reduced Costs

The Association of American Railroads, a trade group that represents the major freight lines, says a strike could cost the country more than $2 billion a day.

The unions say BNSF and Union Pacific's attendance policies make it difficult for workers to take time off, especially for medical appointments. The rail lines reject that argument.

The threat of strike comes as the U.S. supply chain grapples for ways to address the effects of the pandemic.

"The problem is there's only one way in, and there's only one way out, and it's not efficient," said Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary.

Just last week, Buttigieg hailed plans for a new bridge in Los Angeles that would allow more freight to leave the city's log-jammed port.

"These improvements are expected to reduce trucking delays by almost 2,500 truck hours every single day," Buttigieg said. "It's going to allow freight trains to move goods more rapidly, and yes, that's part of the fight against inflation because it can help reduce shipping costs and the cost of goods."

But port leaders have said for months a shortage of rail workers has made getting containers off their terminals difficult.

The fight is part of a larger, global trend as rail workers in the U.K. forced a strike late last month, likely to resume after Queen Elizabeth's state funeral.

"Before we even get onto pay, we have to sort out job security, which we haven't done," said Mick Lynch, secretary-general of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union.

Airlines, trucking lines and major corporations from retail to commerce are now used to a new era of workers demanding higher pay and better working conditions, plus the workers are ready to unionize and strike if they don't get what they want.

Fewer People Are Continuing Their Education After High School

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 01:00

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Colleges are seeing more empty seats in the classroom now that school is back in session. 

There are 4 million fewer college students than there were a decade ago. Among students who graduated high school in 2016, 70% began college that fall. In 2020, that number dropped to 63%.

There are a few possible explanations for this: Some people point to the pandemic as the main factor, as many students may have pushed college off until later to avoid learning from home in their high school bedrooms. While this could be part of it, the decline of students started long before COVID was even a thought.

Other factors should be considered, though, like cost. A Georgetown report found that between 1980 and 2020, the price of tuition, fees, and room and board for undergrad students rose by 169%, while wages for young Americans haven't increased at the same rate. Many people may simply not have the money or aren't willing to go into debt. Student loan debt is close to $30,000 on average for four-year college graduates.

SEE MORE: Enrollment Down At Public Schools Around The Country

But higher education experts say it's important to consider the long-term tradeoffs. Data from the Social Security Administration says that people with bachelor's degrees earn between $600,000 and $900,000 more over the course of their lifetime than someone with just a high school diploma. Data is scarce on how that advantage compares to previous generations of college graduates.

Tolani Britton, a professor who studies the economics of higher education, says it's a complex matter.

"I don't think that it's simply like, get those loans, you are going to be fine long term — I don't think that's quite the case," Britton said. "At the same time, I also think, well, what are the other options? And, are those other options both in the short term and long term as beneficial?"

Let's take a look at those other options: One alternative is students going to a community college for two years, then transferring to a four-year school to offset costs. However, only 8% of community college students who want a bachelor's degree go on to achieve it. They face common roadblocks, like finding out most of their credits won't transfer, and they'll have to start from scratch at a four-year school to get a degree.

Another option is trade school. Programs in trades like construction, HVAC and mechanics have seen an increase in enrollment as high as 40%. The highest-paying trade jobs can make up to nearly six figures. Plus, there are apprenticeships where companies pay students to learn how to do a trade.

If a student doesn't want to go to community college or trade school, they can also go straight into the workforce after high school. Minimum wage jobs that don't require any degree or training have seen an increase in pay. About half of states raised their minimum wage this year, and a lot of companies decided to raise it on their own in recent years. But as those wages have risen, so has the cost of everything else due to inflation.

Experts wonder if the short-term gain from going straight into the workforce is worth it over pursing postsecondary education.  

"Some of the questions that I would ask are, 'Are the jobs that they're taking currently, do they have advancement potential?'" Britton said. "If we think about those same jobs in 10 years and they're paying relatively similar salaries, would they be able to support themselves and a family? What does it mean for their potential children, for example, if they don't necessarily return and get a college degree?"

There are also long-term benefits to getting a degree that experts say are important to consider, like better health outcomes, both mental and physical, and the lower likelihood of being unemployed.

SEE MORE: Data Shows Reading, Math Scores Fell Sharply During Pandemic

Jason Lane, a dean at Miami University in Ohio, told Newsy that as fewer students go to college, this could have long-term impacts for our society as a whole. 

"The loss of individuals going into college will have long-term implications on the country's innovation ecosystem, on our economic productivity," Lane said. "It will make it harder for us as a country to compete internationally in terms of new knowledge development, new innovations, new inventions, things that the U.S. has historically led on."

So, what can be done to get more students back to school? Education professionals say high schools and colleges can work together to close the information gap and make sure students and their families have all of the information they need to make informed decisions about postsecondary education.

There's not only a gap in general information about college, but gaps in information about financial aid and how to get it. A study by ACT found that most students don't understand the financial aid process.

"We also need to think about, it's not just the traditional high school population," Lane said. "We've got to be reaching out to adult populations, folks who are looking to retool, to reskill, who are looking to increase, I think, their own social mobility and economic viability and the economy. To do that, we've actually got to be more accessible. We've got to find new pathways and entry points for them to come into higher education."

U.S. Intelligence Is Helping Ukraine's Counteroffensive

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 00:54

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U.S. intelligence has played a “significant” role in Ukraine’s once quiet but now widely praised counteroffensive, a member of Ukraine’s security service tells Newsy. 

The source believes that Ukrainians first struck bridges in the southern region of Kherson, where Russian troops amassed,  so that Ukraine could hinder them from resupplying or crossing the Dnipro River to travel north to the Kharkiv region, as a major counterattack started.  

"They were running like mice," said one Ukrainian Air Assault soldier. "They were running and abandoning everything — vehicles, their own men. They even shot one of their own who was wounded just to get away." 

Two former senior U.S. intelligence officials tell Newsy that intelligence sharing remains “robust,” and includes insight into the locations of Russian units. The U.S. has provided intelligence that helped Ukraine kill Russian generals and sink the prized Russian warship, the Moskva. 

Officials in the Biden administration don’t want to discuss specific intelligence assessments, for fear they could jeopardize Ukrainian security or military operations. A senior U.S. defense official said this week that the U.S. provided information on  conditions, but the Ukrainian military and political leadership decided how to conduct the counteroffensive.  

SEE MORE: Ukraine's Fighters Share What They've Seen In Newly Retaken Territory

Ukraine’s lightning advance has had a major impact in Moscow. Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson says a mobilization to replace lost and exhausted troops is not on the agenda and the Russian president is aware of all developments: 

“The president is in constant contact, we can say, 24-hour contact with the defense minister and all the chiefs," said Dmitry Peskov, a Russian presidential spokesman. "It can't be any other way during the special military operation. The special military operation is ongoing and will continue until it reaches all of its goals."  

Jeffrey Edmonds, the former Russia director on the White House’s National Security Council, tells Newsy Putin’s position weakens the longer that Russia experiences losses, and “the more he loses, and knows he [is] losing, the higher the risk he will escalate in some way.”

"He does not know what to do and he will strike here even more," said Serhii, a Kharkiv resident. "Just on infrastructure. He will strike so we don't have water, electricity, to create more chaos and intimidate us. But he will not succeed because we will survive, and Putin will soon croak!" 

With Ukraine’s swift military gains — some 6,000 square kilometers, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — come honors for military intelligence officers. 

“Your operations are not usually written about in the news, but they will definitely be written about in military science textbooks," Zelenskyy said. "Your successes are often quiet and imperceptible to our people, but always painful and tangible to our enemy.”   

According to British intelligence, Russian forces that hastily retreated from the northern Kharkiv region were from one of Russia’s most prestigious armies, meant to defend Moscow and lead potential counterattacks in the event of war with NATO. It will likely take years for Russia to rebuild that capability.  

Curbing People With Mental Illness Away From Jail

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 00:49

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Behind the barbed wire of jails and prisons across the country people with mental illnesses are incarcerated. But behind the doors at this courthouse in Miami is a decades long effort to divert people with serious mental illnesses away from the criminal justice system.  

"We're not gonna let you down. Keep it up, keep taking it one day at a time," said Judge Javier Enriquez.

The 11th Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project lessens the cycle of incarceration for people experiencing serious mental illness and substance use disorders. It links treatment and support programs to people who commit less serious crimes. 

Julie Reed is a program graduate, and now a peer specialist for the program.  

She's often outdoors talking to people, keeping them engaged and offering support. 

"I'm helping people and I'm giving back to the community," said Reed.  

When she was a teen she tried to take her life and was introduced to the mental health system. Years later she became a widow and she believes untreated trauma fed her mental health issues. She says  she eventually started self medicating.

"I've had many different diagnoses. I would probably lean more towards like bipolar disorder. It was just really hard to access help and I was uninsured," she said. "I was a single mom and trying to work full time trying to juggle my two kids and it just was a lot and I just started breaking down. I wound up going through the criminal justice system and fortunately that's where I got my help." 


 

 

SEE MORE: America's Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis

She was ready for change and said the program provided support and links to services. 

NEWSY'S HALEY BULL: When you look at this photo here, your story being displayed, what goes through your head?

JULIE REED: I've come a long way and I'm just glad I had the support of my family. If you see in my story "Julie's Story" it's a lot of my family because they were the ones that were really there for me and helped me get through. I wouldn't be able to do it without them. And the team here at JDP helped out a lot. I feel good and hopeful of my future. It's been 12 years in recovery clean and sober, no going back to jail, no going back to the hospitals.

The program goes back more than two decades. 

Judge Steve Leifman has helped turn Miami-Dade County into a national leader in criminal justice reform by changing the way people with serious mental illnesses are treated in the criminal justice system. 

"We wouldn't treat people with cancer or heart diseases this way; we shouldn't be treating with mental health illness this way," said Leifman.  

He is a former assistant public defender who became a passionate advocate as a judge. In his courtroom he saw the holes in the system that led to a commitment for change.  

"Our recidivism rate in our felony and misdemeanor went from about 75% now to about 20 to 25%," he said.  

But there are still more he hopes to reach. The Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery plans to become an extension of the program later this year, a one-stop shop for the mentally ill cycling through the system. 

BULL: Is this a first of its kind facility in the country? 

STEVE LEIFMAN: It's the first of its kind in the United States and possibly in the world.  

It will include everything from a crisis stabilization unit, residential treatment, courtroom to health care, tattoo removal and a culinary support employment program. 

The details, down to the lack of linoleum, are carefully designed to be more welcoming. 

"It will give us a full continuum of all the services we already have that were lacking and every other community lacks. And that's the problem. There's no capacity in the United States for the most acutely ill," said Leifman. 

The American Psychiatric Association Foundation partnered with others on the "Stepping Up Initiative" to help support counties in reducing mental illness in the justice system. Rawle Andrews Jr. is the executive director of the APA Foundation.  

"Over two million people a year get caught up in our criminal justice system annually and those two million people suffer from serious mental illness that need help but what we've given them is a jail cell," said Andrews. "What we're hoping and what we're backing is that this 988 system that just went into place last month almost 30 days in, that the diversion and deflection that we need away from incarceration to some real access to care will happen." 

Back in Miami-Dade, Commissioner Sally Heyman says they've come a long way. 

"Now you have people focused on their care in custody, till they can determine what needs to be done. So, you know, it's not just one thing with the diversion. It's 'what are we doing?' Before we get them in a car," said Heyman. 

While there's more work to do yet Julie shares this, "to never give up to keep continuing to look for help even if you've had doors shut on you. To keep looking, you're not alone."   

Newsy’s mental health initiative "America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis" brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more. 

The EPA Is Investigating The Jackson, Mississippi Water Crisis

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 00:35

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After 40 days of boil water notices, Jackson, Mississippi's water system is still a mess. 

People are still drinking out of bottles, the water is still coming out brown and residents are still getting "boil water" notices.

Earl Jackson, an 88-year-old New Orleans transplant, is an avid cook. He moved his family to the capital city after running away from Hurricane Katrina. The water comes out of his tap, but it's nothing a person would want to cook with. One of Jackson's weekly chores is to stock up on bottled water so he can put his seasonings to work. 

An independent watchdog in the Environmental Protection Agency is now investigating the water crisis. It will conduct interviews, gather data and analyze compliance with regulations and policies of the water system.

For now, Mississippi's governor says crews have fixed one of two key pumps that help run the city's water treatment plant, but some lawmakers are worried the quick fix won't last.

"Some of our pipes throughout the city are one inch, and we need to two-inch lines," said Hinds County Rep. Christopher Bell. "Those one-inch lines that we have already in the ground are going to burst."

It's estimated it will cost $1 billion to fix Jackson's water system the right way. 

"There may be more bad days in the future," said Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. "We have, however, reached a place where people in Jackson can trust that water will come out of the faucet." 

But "trust" is in short supply, so the bottles keep coming. 

The state's emergency agency is still handing out cases of water. 

Shunquita Harris, with the Mississippi National Guard, lives in the same community, with the same water issues that many of the people she's passing water out to face. 

"I think the beauty of it is making sure someone else is okay over myself, because I know at the end of the day I'll be taken care of," Harris said. 

That spirit is strong, but it doesn't get Jackson past the cold hard truth: This city has never had enough money to run a functioning water treatment system, and finding $1 billion to make it work sounds like a pipe dream. 

It will take two rounds of clear samples in order to lift the boil water notice, which has been going on for about 40 days.

 The city is actively filling out paperwork to apply for funding to try and fix all the issues for the long term.  

The Biden administration says the governor needs to make a major disaster declaration in order for the federal government to step in and supply more funds to the city.

Ukraine's Youngest Parliament Member Fights in The Trenches

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 00:32

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Private Sviatoslav Yurash is a frontline soldier trying to hold the line against the Russians.  

"As a private, you await your orders," said Yurash.  

Yurash is one of tens of thousands of young Ukrainians who have answered the call of duty. But it's not his only duty to Ukraine.

At 26 he is also the youngest ever member of his country's parliament.  

With shells exploding around his trench he's multitasking, doing international diplomacy or recording a message to a British lawmaker. 

"We are thankful as we can be for all that you have done for us," he said.  

In between trips to the front, Yurash sat down with Newsy in the capital, Kyiv. 

NEWSY'S JASON BELLINI: Did you have military experience before this?   

SVIATOSLAV YURASH: No. You learn pretty fast when you just survive. When you are fighting for your life, you have no other choice.   

BELLINI: What's your function when you're right there in a trench? What are you trying to do?  

YURASH: You patrol, dig and shoot. You carry a great deal. You support. You try and bring the wounded away from the frontlines. You are there to defend against the Russian onslaught. 

Yurash joined a battalion in the early days of the invasion, a part of the bloody defense of the capital. 

He then fought this summer holding the line against the Russian army in the heavily contested eastern Donbas region. 

BELLINI: Don't you have wartime duties as a member of parliament that you can't fulfill while you're out on the front line?   

YURASH: That's why I'm here now, to fulfill those duties. We have the ability to communicate. We thank Elon Musk as well.  

BELLINI: Starlink.   

YURASH: Indeed.  

Yurash's break from fighting is no break from reminders of war, like the air raid sirens that suddenly interrupted the conversation. 

YURASH: The chance of a missile hitting you right here is pretty negligible. 

BELLINI: The risk factor is a bit higher on the front line than it is here in Kiev.  

YURASH: Well, you have no reason to ignore what warnings come. 

SEE MORE: Ukraine's Fighters Share What They've Seen In Newly Retaken Territory

As Ukraine tries to build on the success of its surprise lightning strike in the north, the president who Yurash helped get elected warns that the most deadly days of the war may be yet to come.  

BELLINI: Have you made peace with the very real possibility of dying on the front line? 

YURASH: Every single Ukrainian you meet has already taken one way or the other a great loss, and because of that, your desire to get justice for all of them is bigger than whatever your concern for your own life is. And when I'm there, that desire and need to get justice is realized in no other way. It's justice that we need for all those people who have perished in the struggle for our country's existence.  

BELLINI: And you're prepared to die for that?  

YURASH: Well, I don't want to die, but when you join the army, that is a very real possibility. 

BELLINI: Have you had any close calls yourself?   

YURASH: Yes, plenty. Plenty. You get used to shelling. You get used to the horror of it pretty quickly. You have no choice. Humans are very malleable to whatever horror or joy comes to them. But what sticks out is camaraderie. One of my comrades has been hit pretty hard. Shrapnel hit him basically in the leg, torso, arm and face. And we were essentially carrying him out of there. And you had all these people basically tending to him and trying to take him into safety. One of the most honorable things I can think of doing is saving a man's life like that. And to try to be useful in saving somebody from hell on the battlefield and giving him a new lease of life, because that's what I would hope would happen to me if I would have gotten hit.  

Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have already died in the more than 200 days since Russia invaded Ukraine. 

BELLINI: You're going to be going back to the front? 

YURASH: Of course. Absolutely. I cannot wait, to be honest with you. Because it makes much more sense out there. You feel directly the possibilities of your country beating back the Russians there. We don't get to choose the times we live in. We get to choose what we do for the times we live in. 

Why Are We Scared Of A Recession?

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 00:16

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Americans are increasingly anxious of a possible recession. Two out of three say they're expecting one.  

Peter Ricchiuti, an economist from Tulane University, tells Newsy all the talk around a recession often leads to people worrying about getting laid off. 

"A recession is when your neighbors out of work, and depression is when you're out of work. And that's what people are afraid of, losing their job," said Ricchiuti. "Maybe we worry ourselves into a recession. Just by talking about it."

And he adds headlines popping up on news or social media feeds may create more unnecessary fear.  

"I think we overplay it. It makes good news. I know we're in the news business, but you have one executive say that an economic hurricane is on its way, and people play on that," said Ricchiuti.   

Last June, the Financial Times found nearly 70% of macro-economists believe the U.S. economy will tip into a recession next year. But are we already in a recession? 

SEE MORE: What Matters: Robert Reich On Recession Risks

Government numbers in late July revealed U.S. Gross Domestic Product dropped for the second quarter in a row. 

GDP is a key economic indicator that measures the value of a nation's economy. 

Traditionally, two successive quarters of a GDP decline defines a recession. But that definition is not official. 

A panel of eight economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research announce whether the U.S. is or isn't in a recession.  

And they've yet to do that. That may be due to some positive economic signs.  

Gas prices dropped below $4 a gallon on average for the first time since March. 

The economy added more than half a million jobs in July. 

And unemployment is at a low not seen since before the pandemic. 

But renewed fears of layoffs have American workers worried. 

An August survey found half of employers expect to cut jobs in the next six to 12 months. 

Ricchuiti says if the U.S. were to enter a recession it wouldn't be a huge surprise. Let history be a guide. 

"We get a recession about every five to seven years and an average recession will last about 12 months. You get an economy that grows and grows and then it overheats and then it has to be lowered back down again," said Ricchuiti. 

And that's where the American economy is at; too hot from growing at record rates in 2021.  

The problem this year is inflation also grew and the Federal Reserve's tool of raising interest rates to cool inflation could trigger a recession. And how long it could last or how severe it will be is hard to predict.  

"The last recession was during the pandemic, and it only lasted about two months, but it was very severe. The longest was 18 months which was the '07-'08 recession, which was almost a depression," said Ricchuiti. "A lot of people remember that '07-'08 recession as being so dramatic and they don't all look like that." 

While Americans don't want history to repeat itself, one thing to count on is to proceed with caution and watch the headlines as we all watch the state of the economy unfold the rest of the year. 

What Is The Independent State Legislature Theory?

Wed, 09/14/2022 - 00:16

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The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could have major implications on election laws nationwide. 

The case comes from North Carolina. State courts there invalidated the new legislature-drawn congressional map, saying the partisan gerrymandering went too far. The map was revised, but the state Supreme Court rejected that one too and instead implemented court-drawn district lines for the 2022 midterms. 

"What the case in the Supreme Court is about is whether or not the North Carolina Supreme Court actually had the power to say this congressional redistricting violates the North Carolina constitution," said Carolyn Shapiro, a professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and the co-director of Chicago-Kent’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States. 

North Carolina Republican lawmakers are asking the justices to adopt what’s known as the Independent State Legislature theory.

"The Independent State Legislature theory rests on the idea that there are two provisions in the US Constitution, the elections clause and the electors clause, that essentially give state legislatures the power to regulate federal elections,” said Amy Howe, the co-founder of SCOTUSblog. 

That theory, if adopted, would mean state legislatures, and only state legislatures, have the power to regulate federal election laws.

SEE MORE: Supreme Court Sides With Coach Who Sought To Pray After Game

"Any backstop in the state constitution to protect democracy, to protect free elections, would just not apply when it comes to, not just congressional redistricting, but anything to do with federal elections," said Shapiro.  

In this scenario, state lawmakers would have unchecked control over federal elections.  

Experts say there are two recent Supreme Court rulings that addressed similar questions and could come into play — one is from 2015. In that case, Arizona state lawmakers made a similar argument and said the state’s independent redistricting commission violated the U.S. Constitution because they argued only the legislature has the power to draw new district lines.  

"The Supreme Court, by a vote of five to four, rejected that argument and said, when the Constitution refers to the legislature, it's just not simply referring to the legislative body," said Howe. 

The other opinion came down in 2019. In that case, the justices said federal courts have no role to play in partisan gerrymandering discussions. 

"The opinion was by the Chief Justice John Roberts. And he said in his opinion, that state constitutions and state rules could still be used by state courts in partisan gerrymandering cases brought under those state laws. And state constitutions, even if federal courts can't weigh in, state courts could," said Howe.  

If the justices side with the North Carolina lawmakers, both those precedents could be overturned, and that could have a wide-reaching impact on longstanding election procedures across the country.  

"All kinds of other regulations might be affected. Things like voter registration, polling places, just the most basic stuff about how elections operate. To the extent that that's in statutes, legislatures could decide they want to do something different with respect to federal elections, even if it violates the state constitution," said Shapiro.  

This case is not on the court’s argument schedule for October or November. The earliest the court could hear arguments is December. A final opinion could come any time before the term ends in June 2023.  

Republican Senate Race Takes Center Stage In New Hampshire's Primary

Tue, 09/13/2022 - 23:57

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Democratic voters in New Hampshire appear to be galvanizing over the Supreme Court’s move overturning nationwide access to abortion.  

"I think that women across our whole country are energized because of the overturning of Roe which we thought they would never see, so I think people realize what they can do is vote," said Heather Krans, a New Hampshire voter. 

"We’ve got to get the women back their rights, I mean this is ridiculous," said George Drinkwater, who lives in Newfields, New Hampshire.  

But Democrats aren’t the only party saying they are motivated to vote in November. 

Kevin Ray voted in the GOP Primary. 

"The people in New Hampshire are tired of what’s happening with this administration and its time to hold this administration accountable," said Ray. 

SEE MORE: Democrats Defend Control Of U.S. Senate

The Republican frontrunners in the state’s closely-watched senate race is retired General Don Bolduc and State Senate President Chuck Morse, who both say they’re the best option to recall Democrat Maggie Hassan from Washington.  

"As Senate president in New Hampshire, I think I've proved that I can get things done. I've lowered taxes, created education freedom accounts, and we passed constitutional carry," said Morse. 

"Their number one issues are inflation, energy, safety and security. All those things that Maggie Hassan has failed at, for Granite Staters and Americans," said Bolduc. 

But with control of the Senate hanging in the balance, President Joe Biden’s Granite State favorability ratings hit just 22% in the latest poll — meaning Hassan may have to rely on voters looking past the president.  

"The issues on the ballot are really going to drive the people out — abortion, Supreme Court, stuff like that — not that President Biden’s gonna keep em away," said Guy Cayton, an Exeter, New Hampshire resident.   

But regardless of Republican nominees, the first term Democratic senator expects to have to fight for survival. 

"This will be a close race, because it always is in New Hampshire. Everybody takes that responsibility very, very seriously here as voters. And I'm looking forward to making my case about my bipartisan record of results. And I will draw a sharp contrast with my opponent," said Hassan. 

Senate Majority Leader Schumer Seeks 10 GOP Votes On Marriage Equality

Tue, 09/13/2022 - 21:21

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor to urge passage of a marriage equality bill, saying "I truly hope, for the sake of tens of millions of Americans, that there will be at least ten Republicans who will vote with us to pass this very important bill."

Work continues on the legislation behind the scenes, and Schumer praised two Democrats, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, along with one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins for their work in putting together the legislation.

"I encourage my colleagues to continue these conversations," Schumer said. "The American people support protecting marriage rights of same sex marriages by a large margin. So let's get it done."

SEE MORE: House Passes Bill Protecting Same-Sex Marriage Rights

Earlier this summer, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act by a vote of 267 to 157. Forty-seven Republicans joined Democrats to support the bill.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Casket Of Queen Elizabeth II Arrives At Buckingham Palace

Tue, 09/13/2022 - 20:12

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The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II returned to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening, making its way through a drizzly London as crowds lined the route for a glimpse of the hearse and to bid her a final farewell.

People parked their cars along a normally busy road, got out and waved as the hearse, with lights inside illuminating the flag-draped coffin, made its way into London. In the city, people pressed in on the road and held their phones aloft as it passed.

Thousands outside the palace cheered, shouted “God save the queen!” and clapped as the hearse swung around a roundabout in front of the queen's official London residence and through the wrought iron gates. Her son, King Charles III, and other immediate family members waited inside.

The coffin traveled to London from Edinburgh, where 33,000 people filed silently past it in the 24 hours at St. Giles’ Cathedral after it had been brought there from her cherished summer retreat, Balmoral. The queen — the only monarch many in the United Kingdom have ever known — died there Sept. 8 at age 96 after 70 years on the throne.

The military C-17 Globemaster carrying the casket touched down at RAF Northolt, an air force base in the west of London, about an hour after it left Edinburgh. U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and a military honor guard were among those at the base for the arrival.

One who stood in the rain waiting for the hearse to pass, retired bus driver David Stringer, 82, recalled watching the queen’s coronation on a newsreel as a boy.

“It’s a great shame,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t think about her every day, but I always knew she was there, and my life’s coming to a close now and her time has finished.”

The coffin will be taken by horse-drawn gun carriage Wednesday to the Houses of Parliament to lie in state for four days before Monday’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.

“Scotland has now bid our Queen of Scots a sad, but fond farewell,” said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “We will not see her like again.”

Charles had returned to London from Northern Ireland, where his visit drew a rare moment of unity from politicians in a region with a contested British and Irish identity that is deeply divided over the monarchy.

The new king is making his own journey this week, visiting the four nations of the U.K. – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Hundreds gathered around Hillsborough Castle near Belfast, the royal family’s official residence in Northern Ireland, in the latest outpouring of affection following the queen’s death. The area in front of the gates to the castle was carpeted with hundreds of floral tributes.

SEE MORE: Biden Accepts Invitation For Queen's Funeral

Charles and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, got out of their car to wave to the crowd and sometimes used both hands to reach out to villagers, including schoolchildren in bright blue uniforms. Charles even petted a corgi — famously his late mother’s favorite breed of dog — held up by one person, and some chanted “God save the king!”

“Today means so much to me and my family, just to be present in my home village with my children to witness the arrival of the new king is a truly historic moment for us all,” said Hillsborough resident Robin Campbell.

While there was a warm welcome in Hillsborough, the British monarchy draws mixed emotions in Northern Ireland, where there are two main communities: mostly Protestant unionists who consider themselves British and largely Roman Catholic nationalists who see themselves as Irish.

That split fueled three decades of violence known as “the Troubles” involving paramilitary groups on both sides and U.K. security forces, in which 3,600 people died. The royal family was touched personally by the violence: Lord Louis Mountbatten, a cousin of the queen and a much-loved mentor to Charles, was killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb in 1979.

A deep sectarian divide remains, a quarter century after Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace agreement.

For some Irish nationalists, the monarch represents an oppressive foreign power. But others acknowledge the queen’s role in forging peace. On a visit to Northern Ireland in 2012, she shook hands with Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander — a once-unthinkable moment of reconciliation. On Tuesday the new king shook hands with Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill.

In a sign of how far Northern Ireland has come on the road to peace, representatives of Sinn Fein attended commemorative events for the queen and meeting the king on Tuesday.

Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein politician who is speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said the queen had “demonstrated how individual acts of positive leadership can help break down barriers and encourage reconciliation.”

Charles responded that she had tried to play a role “in bringing together those whom history had separated, and in extending a hand to make possible the healing of long-held hurts.”

He said he would draw on his mother’s “shining example” and “seek the welfare of all the inhabitants of Northern Ireland.”

Still, not everyone was welcoming the new king.

On the Falls Road in Belfast, a nationalist stronghold, several walls are decorated with murals of Bobby Sands, an IRA member who died while on a hunger strike in prison in 1981, and others killed in the Troubles.

“No, he’s not our king. Bobby Sands was our king here,” said 52-year-old Bobby Jones. “Queen never done nothing for us. Never did. None of the royals do.”

Irish leaders attended a service of reflection at St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast despite tense relations between Dublin and London over Brexit. Since Britain left the European Union in 2020, the U.K. and the EU have been wrangling over trade rules for Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. that shares a border with a member of the bloc.

Before being flown to London, the queen's oak coffin was carried from St. Giles’ Cathedral to the strain of bagpipes. Crowds lining the Royal Mile through the historic heart of Edinburgh broke into applause as the coffin, accompanied by the queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, was driven to Edinburgh Airport.

“I was fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest mother’s life,” Princess Anne said in a statement. “It has been an honour and a privilege to accompany her on her final journeys. Witnessing the love and respect shown by so many on these journeys has been both humbling and uplifting.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

GOP's Graham Unveils Nationwide Abortion Ban After 15 Weeks

Tue, 09/13/2022 - 19:51

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Upending the political debate, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a nationwide abortion ban Tuesday, sending shockwaves through both parties and igniting fresh debate on a fraught issue weeks before the midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.

Graham's own Republican party leaders did not immediately embrace his abortion ban bill, which would prohibit the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy with rare exceptions, and has almost no chance of becoming law in the Democratic-held Congress. Democrats torched it as extreme, an alarming signal of where “MAGA” Republicans are headed if they win control of the House and Senate in November.

"America’s got to make some decisions," Graham said at a press conference at the Capitol.

The South Carolina Republican said rather than shying away from the Supreme Court's ruling this summer overturning Roe vs. Wade's nearly 50-year right to abortion access, Republicans are preparing to fight to make a nationwide abortion ban federal law.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, we’re going nowhere,” the senator said flanked by women advocates from the anti-abortion movement. “We welcome the debate. We welcome the vote in the United States Senate as to what America should look like in 2022.”

Reaction was swift, fierce and unwavering from Democrats who viewed Graham's legislation as an extreme example of the far-right's hold on the GOP, and as a political gift of self-inflicted pain for Republican candidates now having to answer questions about an abortion ban heading toward the midterm elections.

“A nationwide abortion ban — that’s the contrast between the two parties, plain and simple,” said Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer.

Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington who is in her own fight for reelection, said Republicans “want to force” women to stay pregnant and deliver babies.

“To anyone who thought they were safe, here is the painful reality,” she said. “Republicans are coming for your rights.”

The sudden turn of events comes in a razor-tight election season as Republicans hoping to seize control of Congress are struggling to recapture momentum, particularly after the Supreme Court's landmark decision sparked deep concerns among some voters, with signs of women voters peeling away from the GOP.

In a midterm election where the party out of the White House traditionally holds an advantage, even more so this year with President Joe Biden's lackluster approval ratings, the Democrats have regained their own momentum pushing back the GOP candidates in House and Senate races.

Tuesday's announcement set up an immediate split screen with Biden and Democrats poised to celebrate their accomplishments in a ceremony at the White House after passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and Republicans forced to answer for Graham's proposed abortion ban.

"This bill is wildly out of step with what Americans believe," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement.

"While President Biden and Vice President Harris are focused on the historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, health care, and energy – and to take unprecedented action to address climate change – Republicans in Congress are focused on taking rights away from millions of women," Jean-Pierre said.

Graham's legislation has almost zero chance of becoming law, but it elevates the abortion issue at a time when other Republicans would prefer to focus on inflation, border security and Biden's leadership.

The Republican bill would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy, expect in cases of rape, incest or risks to the physical health of the mother. Graham said it would put the U.S. on par with many other countries in Europe and around the world.

In particular, Graham's bill would leave in place state laws that are more restrictive. That provision is notable because many Republicans have argued the Supreme Court's ruling leaves the abortion issue for the states to decide. But the legislation from the Republicans makes it clear states are only allowed to decide the issue if their abortion bans are more stringent.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who is one seat away from majority control, declined to embrace Graham's legislation.

“I think every Republican senator running this year in these contested races has an answer as to how they feel about the issue," McConnell said. "So I leave it up to our candidates who are quite capable of handling this issue to determine for them what their response is.”

The Democratic senators most at risk this fall and other Democratic candidates running for Congress appeared eager to fight against Graham's proposed nationwide abortion ban.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the Democrat from Nevada tweeted that Graham “and every other anti-choice extremist can take a hike.”

Her Republican opponent, Adam Laxalt, has during his campaign insisted that abortion is protected in the state constitution, which it would no longer be under this bill.

In Colorado, another Democratic up for reelection, Sen. Michael Bennet, tweeted: “A nationwide abortion ban is outrageous."

Bennet pledged "to defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, no matter what ZIP code she lives in. We cannot afford to let the Republicans take back the Senate.”

His opponent in Colorado, Republican Senate hopeful Joe O’Dea, who supports putting abortion access that had been guaranteed under Roe vs. Wade into law, agreed, in part: “A Republican ban is as reckless and tone deaf as is Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer’s hostility to considering any compromise on late term abortion, parental notification or conscience protections for religious hospitals.”

The races for control of Congress are tight in the split 50-50 Senate where one seat determines majority control and the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose only a very few seats.

Pelosi called Graham's bill the “clearest signal of extreme MAGA Republicans’ intent to criminalize women’s health freedom in all 50 states and arrest doctors for providing basic care. Make no mistake: if Republicans get the chance, they will work to pass laws even more draconian than this bill.”

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill tried to hold the party together amid the differences.

“I think that what it’s attempting to do is probably change the conversation a little bit,” said Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, and second-ranking party leader.

“Democrats are implying that all Republicans are for a ban without exceptions, and that’s not true,” Thune said. “There are Republicans who are in favor of restrictions. And I think this is an attempt to at least put something out there that reflects the views of a lot of Republicans who are in favor of some restrictions.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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